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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Contemplations on Comic Cons

From the Shropshire Star.
This year I had the honour of being invited to 13 conventions in all. Unfortunately I had to cancel my appearance at two, but 11 comic cons in one year is still a record for me. I have the highest respect for anyone who organises a convention, because they bring people together and we simply wouldn't have a comics community without them. 

There was a debate on the Comics UK Forum a while ago, with some members claiming "comic cons" were no longer about comics
I disagreed, because admittedly the larger shows such as those run by Showmasters are mainly focused on film and tv stars, there are still many events that are "All about the comics" to use the catchphrase of Enniskillen Comic Fest organiser Paul Trimble.
With Joanne Alexander in Enniskillen.

Arriving in Northern Ireland.
Not that the larger events should be dismissed of course, and the Showmasters events I was a guest at this year were in London, Cardiff, and Manchester. I've found that quite often, people who wouldn't normally attend a comics-only show, are pleasantly surprised to find creators from comics they read as children at the same event as actors from their favourite movies and TV shows. (Sadly, Showmasters are now cutting back on comics guests at their events so I'm uncertain which, if any, of their shows I'll be at in 2017.)
With Emma Chinnery and Spidey at Macc-Pow!

However, it's the comics-dedicated events where you're certain to find everyone is into comics. This year has seen numerous shows all over the UK that are purely comic cons. All of the ones I attended were good fun and 100% about comics, including ICE, Lancaster Comics Day, Birmingham Comics FesitvalMacc-Pow!, Bristol Comics Expo, Shrewsbury International Comic Art Festival, and the aforementioned Enniskillen Comic Fest. There was also Stoke-Con-Trent, which, although it included actors as well, felt more like a comics con and was very enjoyable. 
With Nika Nartova and Nigel Parkinson in Cardiff.

I can't express enough how much I enjoy attending comics conventions. I think I speak for many of us in this profession that as we work in solitude it's refreshing, uplifting, and healthy (as long as we don't stay in the bar too long) to get out and meet up with like-minded people, fan and pro alike. I've lost count of how many conventions I've attended over the years, first as a punter in 1979, then as a guest from about 1984 onwards. Back then we were lucky if there was one convention a year. These days there are several events practically every weekend throughout the year, so even the 11 that I was at this year was only scratching the surface. 
Lancaster Comics Day.

For 2017, I'm booked for six conventions so far. Two of them are a return visit to the Enniskillen Comic Fest ( and the new ICE Brighton ( I'll reveal what the other ones are when the organisers have made the announcements public, but it's going to be a busy summer!
Macc-Pow! in Macclesfield.

One of the changes I've noticed in conventions over the years are that there are now more women at events, both creators and fans. I'm sure that things like Manga, Vertigo comics, and other more diverse graphic novels must have played a part, and it's a welcome improvement on the days when 99% of attendees were men. There are also more families attending cons now, which, again, wasn't the case back in the 1980s. It's a positive sign that conventions are attracting a more mainstream audience and that can only be a good thing for creators wanting to reach a wider readership. 
Stoke Con Trent.

Rachael Stott, Robbie Morrison, Sarah Millman, some old bloke.

If you're a regular attendee of comic cons, or if you've yet to take the plunge, I hope to see you at some of the shows next year. They're always good, informal events and worth coming along to. Support your local comic con and have a good day out!
With Hunt Emerson and Laura Howell in Enniskillen.


Manic Man said...

I'll make a comment that that main thing that annoys me is when they call themselves 'comic convention' and aren't. I've nothing against a multi-media conventions but when you call it "Comic convention", I want comics. Call it "Multi-media convention" or "Film and Comics convention" etc, and then it can be Film and Comics or whatever.

but isn't this the same with anything? If I go to a Toy shop, I don't expect them to sell books. If they have the odd one, I don't expect at least it to be a major notable part of the toy shop. If I remember the old English saying "The clue is in the title". So I have nothing wrong with film ones etc, IF that is what they say they are. It's like in the US and UK there was the 'Sci-fi' channel.. they show a lot of non science fiction.. some stuff I like some I don't. Either way, I don't watch the channel much and I did get annoyed with the amount of NOT science fiction on a channel which claims itself "the home of Sci-fi".. oh well.. that's my bit ^_^

Richard Williams said...

I managed to attend 4 cons this year (2 in Brum, Shrewsbury and Chester)and all but one were completely comicbook based etc. They were all great events and I thoroughly enjoyed them, meeting many creators and fellow fans alike. I never attended any in the past due to my work commitments but now in my later years I have more time. I intend to go to a few more next year, dependant on funds etc.

Lew Stringer said...

Even this week, someone said to be "There aren't any comic cons now", despite all the evidence to the contrary. It's quite bizarre. Perhaps it's because the big multi-media cons have more prominent advertising and they're the only ones some people notice? Anyway, fortunately there are plenty of events around being enjoyed by a lot of people. Hope to see you at some next year, Richard.

Diego Jourdan P. said...

I don't go to big cons anymore, unless i'm specifically invited (say, for a book launch or signing). Not being a huge "fan", the ones i enjoy the most are the small press ones, which allow me access to a treasure trove of new art styles, and meeting some cool new people who love what they do sincerely, without any pretentious BS.
Beyond my particular preferences, i cannot see why any sort of event would want to afford the luxury of leaving anybody out. Discrimination issues aside, there's a commercial consideration: cosplayers (to name one such group of fans) not only buy comics...they EMBODY them too!

Lew Stringer said...

Not all cosplayers buy comics, or are even interested in them, but I was pleased to meet some this year who were genuine comics fans.

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